some questions about the verb 'wear'

Agito a42

Senior Member
Hello everyone. My English is still bad, but I have a lot of questions that need to be answered. In this post, I'll only write some of them. I hope you will help me.
So, I've studying English with Rosetta Stone, and sometimes I think that application is teaching me wrong things. So, here are my questions (situations):

1) She's embarrassed because she wore the wrong clothing.
Situation: The woman is meeting with her friends at the party. It is a costume party, but she's wearing a simple red dress.
I think it must be "She was embarrassed because she was wearing the wrong clothing" or "She's embarrassed because she put on the wrong clothing" instead.

2) It's cold near the lake, so we wore our jackets.
Situation: Some nice children are going to the lake, and they're wearing their coats.
It's similar to the previous sentence. There should be a "we're wearing" instead of a "wore", don't you think?

3) I wore this scarf when I visited France.
Situation: The woman is showing a picture of herself in France. In the picture, she is wearing a green scarf.
This example is different from the previous ones, in that one I don't understand why it is a "when" instead of a "while" (my version is "I wore this scarf while/when I was visiting France). I ask because I didn't find the rule which explain the use of a When-clause that expresses the idea that both actions were happening at the same time by only using the past tense. Also, do the "wore" mean a repeated action in the past here? i.g. can I say "She always/usually/sometimes wore her beautiful green scarf, when we were in France"?

That's all by now. I hope i didn't make many mistakes. If it is not, then correct me.
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    Hello, Agito a42. Welcome to the forum.

    It's obvious that you've been working hard. Your questions are good ones.

    (1) I'm not surprised that this use of "wore" confuses you. Speakers often use "wear" in the past tense even though they are still wearing the clothing. I show up at a party and find that I'm wearing some inappropriate clothing. Even though I'm still wearing the clothing at the time I make my remark, I could say: It looks as though I wore the wrong clothes to this party. I could also say: I'm wearing the wrong clothes to this party. Or: It looks as though I put on the wrong clothes for this party. Your thoughts about other ways of expressing the idea are fine, but don't be surprised if you hear people use "wore" in this context.

    (2) The use of "wore" in this example is very much like the situation above. The speaker is using "wore" with the meaning "put on", or "We put on our jackets earlier and are still wearing them now." It's very common to use "wore" this way.

    (3) This sentence uses "wore" with the normal meaning of "wore it in the past". The speaker is telling you that she wore that green scarf at the time she visited France. People can use "when" and "while" interchangeably in sentences like this one.

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hello Agito a42, and Welcome to the Forum! :)

    In my view (1) and (2) are the same, and hinge on one's understanding of 'to wear'. The forms that you've called into question are in my view quite standard, and I would therefore expect a dictionary to offer the sense of the verb that would justify this usage. I see that the Collins (the forum) dictionary offers no such validation of my viewpoint. What a shame.
    Maybe someone has access to a volume that does.
    To be specific, I'd expect a dictionary to offer 'to dress' or 'to dress in' (maybe even 'to elect to wear') as part of its definition of 'to wear'

    3) I wore this scarf when I visited France.

    This could be habitual, it could indicate that the scarf was worn permanently. The scarf would need only to have been worn once for the assertion to be true.
    I would not expect to see 'while' for 'when' here, and for a host of reasons Truly this second question belongs to a thread of its own.
    There are many previous threads on the use of 'while/when'. (search for while, and then scroll down the page) :)


    Senior Member
    British English
    1) If the party's still going on, I'd say She's embarrassed because she's wearing the wrong (sort of) clothes. After the party, I'd say She was embarrassed because she was wearing...You don't want put on. You put your clothes on when you get up and you put your coat on before you leave the house.
    2) This is fine. You're making the general comment that it's always cold by the lake. You're saying what you did for the whole time and not what you were doing. It's a bit like saying It was cold so we lit a fire. (I disagree with owlman5 in that for me, the sentence contains no idea of putting on. Wore is correct, however.)
    3) This is fine too. The difference between when and while is often subtle. There's probably been a thread on it. I'd used when in the France sentence. Visited probably means you only went there once, although it could mean that you went there several times. Personally I'd say...when I was in France - i.e. I only went there once.

    Put on doesn't generally mean wear. Wear is what you do after you've put your clothes on. The difference can be subtle, however.
    1) He wore his army uniform to his father's funeral.
    2) It's cold outside so you'd better put your coat on.
    3) I couldn't decide which jacket to wear.
    4) When she got up, she decided to put on some clean underwear.
    5) We were cold even though we were wearing our coats.
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    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    2) This is fine. You're making the general comment that it's always cold by the lake. You're saying what you did for the whole time and not what you were doing. It's a bit like saying It was cold so we lit a fire. (I disagree with owlman5 in that for me, the sentence contains no idea of putting on. Wore is correct, however.)
    That's exactly what I thought when I read it, but if you read the "situation" it clearly calls for "we're wearing", as agito says. It's (always) cold by the lake so (when we got dressed to go out) we wore our jackets. They are on their way to the lake so the "wore" means "put on". I find this way of using "wear" to mean "put on" not wrong but a bit ambiguous.

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    I feel we shouldn't underestimate the fact that when the verb (to) wear is used in the sense of (to) have something — clothes, shoes, etc. — on one's body — we are in front of an essentially "static" verb, as the verb (to) have in the definition overtly suggests.
    I'm saying this because in quite a few languages I've studied the vocabulary offers one verb for both the static meaning (to) have something on one's body (= to be wearing something...) and for the dynamic meaning (to) put something on one's body. My own native tongue does exactly that.


    Agito a42

    Senior Member
    Thank a lot for your help.
    I've understand all of what you said.

    PS: About (3). I've had this question because Raymond Murphy says "We use the past simple to say that one thing happened after another. For example: When Karen arrived, we had dinner", so my first explanation was something like "She arrived in France, and then she put her scarf on". Yes I know it sounds funny.


    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree with Giorgi. The Welsh for Put your coat on literally means Wear your coat, although this sounds odd in English. Put on means donning clothes and not just standing there in them.
    My dictionary, Chambers, gives many definitions for wear. The first one is to be dressed in. To put on isn't one of the definitions. I agree with this. However, I suppose you could say It's a formal occasion so put your suit on or It's a formal occasion so wear your suit. In the context - the speaker is asking the other person to make sure he's properly dressed - there's very little difference, if any, between the two sentences.
    In Agito's second sentence, you could say It's cold by the lake so we put our jackets on. I.e. we put our jackets on in anticipation of the cold. We were wearing would be wrong as it implies that you stopped wearing your jackets. This touches on the difference between the imperfect and the past simple, which would need another thread. However, you could say Why were you wearing your jackets? We were wearing our jackets because it was cold. I.e. the tense in the answer is the same as the tense in the question.
    (Get dressed is what you do in the morning. The bedroom was cold so I got dressed quickly.)
    Cross-posted with Agito. With when, you interpret the sentence according to whatever makes sense. We had dinner when Karen arrived - Karen arrived and then we had dinner. I put my scarf on when I went out - I put my scarf on and then I went out. You can say We were having dinner when Karen arrived - we started our dinner and then Karen arrived.
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